March 30, 2023
Life in the Unicameral Legislature is always full of surprises. Last week I saw things I thought I would never see. The structure of the Unicameral Legislature is such that it allows for a single State Senator or a minority group of State Senators to control how the debate on a bill proceeds on the floor. So, today I would like to tell you about what has been happening at the Capitol in Lincoln and how I intend to fix it.
Sen. Machalea Cavanaugh of Omaha has effectively derailed the first half of the Legislative session for this year by leading a series of filibusters on bills that have come up on the floor for debate. Because a filibuster takes eight hours to complete, she has managed to waste a lot of precious time which could have been spent debating other bills. However, everything finally came to head last week once the Legislature advanced LB 574, otherwise known as the Let Them Grow Act, which prohibits those in the medical field from administering gender altering drugs and procedures to minors.
Democrats in the Unicameral Legislature have begun using a new stall tactic. By rule, priority motions always take precedence over amendments in the State Legislature, and the Senator making the motion always gets ten minutes at the microphone to open on the priority motion. Therefore, a small group of Democrat Senators began to make priority motions on bills and withdrawing the motion at the end of their ten-minute opening. At that point one of their colleagues would introduce a new priority motion, which would take another ten minutes off the clock. This would go on and on so that Republican Senators would never get an opportunity to speak on the bill.
Many of the State Senators who have engaged in this stall tactic are the same ones who have been the most vocal when it comes to praising the Unicameral Legislature for being a non-partisan Legislature, who make demands for congeniality, who pretend they want everyone to get along, and who supposedly value giving everyone the opportunity to speak. So, on one particular occasion last week they put 15 bracket motions on a single bill, withdrew the motions after ten minutes, and effectively denied 30 Republican Senators of their opportunity to participate in the floor debate.
I do not intend to let these stall tactics go on any longer. So, at the end of Friday's floor debate, I introduced a motion of my own. My motion will ask the Legislature next week to temporarily suspend the rules in order to make an important rule change for the remainder of the 108th Legislature. That rule change entails that a motion to bracket a bill, a motion to indefinitely postpone a bill, and a motion to recommit a bill may only be made once on a single bill on the same day that it gets debated on the floor of the Legislature.
This rule change would effectively end the stall tactics of those State Senators who do not want to engage in a full and fair debate on a number of bills they do not like this year. LB 574 was only the second of several controversial bills which stand to receive a debate on the floor of the Unicameral Legislature this year. LB 77 was the first. LB 77 would allow all Nebraskans to conceal and carry a firearm without a permit. In addition, the State Legislature may also have the opportunity to debate LB 575, the Sports and Spaces Act, which would prohibit boys from participating in girls' sports, LB 626, the Heartbeat Act, which would limit abortions to the sixth week or pregnancy, LB371, a bill prohibiting minors from attending drag shows, and LB 441, a bill that repeals an exemption for educators who provide minors with obscene materials.
Whether or not you support any of these controversial bills is not at issue here. All bills deserve to receive a full and fair debate on the floor of the Unicameral Legislature without dilatory motions derailing that process. Many bills have come up to the floor of the Legislature for debate that I have not liked, but derailing the entire legislative calendar was never something that I ever gave any serious consideration to. Unless we do something drastic and soon, we stand to lose the entire second half of this year's legislative session.